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You can call me Hal.

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Every day, in every way

I'm sure we all want to improve our writing -- our fiction. Certainly, my writing has improved from when I started. But I want to be more consciously working on that. I'd like to make my stories more emotionally complex, for one. So now I just have to figure out how to go about that.

As well, I'd like to make some of my stories more plotty, which is not my strong suit at this point. I suppose there, all I can do is read up on plotting and try to do it.

One thing I did try this year is to "pre-edit" less when I write. I have a tendency to agonize over every sentence and it's hard to get a rhythm going. I'm trying now not to worry if each sentence is perfect as soon as I write it and to take more time in revision. I'm not as good at this yet as I'd like, but I think it's helped me. contrelamontre challenges were certainly good for that.

Is there anything specific that you do or have done to improve your writing? Exercises? Books you've read? Change of style? Have you tried anything new recently or do you plan to?

I'm not a resolution-making person, but this seems a good thing to think about as we head into the new year.

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I've been blocked for a couple of years now. It's hard to get started on a piece, especially if I don't believe I can finish it. When I finally started putting words on screen again, I started carrying a notebook. If I get a paragraph, or a sentence, or anything that crawls into my head, I scribble it down in the notebook.

I read a lot. I think, as far as style goes, Dorothy Sayers is still my idol, but I don't believe you can write like that today and have readers accept it. Sometimes I try to write like that anyway and to hell with readers.

One of the things I try to do is kill adverbs. I write till I get to a stopping point, and then I go back and start killing adverbs. And as many adjectives as I feel are superfluous. Also, if I'm reading and something in what I'm reading irritates, I immediatley suspect that I might have the same flaw in my writing, so I go back and check for that.

I really agree about reading. Even if you're not analysing as you go, reading good prose will help you absorb what makes it good. (I love Sayers too.)

Adverbs are tricksy. They can really be overused -- whenever I read any of the HP books they start jumping out at me. But I don't think that means you should kill all of them either. I think people make too big a deal of "show don't tell" and sometimes a well-placed adverb can save you lines of unecessary "show".

Reading Sayers taught me how to use colons. I had a very solid grammatical background -- and both my parents were teachers -- but there are some details I simply didn't grasp or never used. Hemingway is actually, whether you like him or loathe him, a good teacher as well. He's more of a journalist, but he does show a clear simple use of English phrasing.

And you're right about "show, don't tell". In some cases, that's the best way -- especially if you're trying to dramatize some emotional moment, I think. But there are definitely times when it's better to just say "she dressed swiftly" instead of detailing what clothes she chose and how she donned them.

I mention that because my personal bete noire is a story I typed for a zine years ago in which the author took an entire paragraph to explain just how the heroine put on her belt. *headdesk*

However, just to be contrary, I would say that if you wanted to show your heroine's character, you could describe her lying down to zip her jeans and saying to herself that she wouldn't be able to sit down the entire evening...

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